Sarah of Forest Grove Botanica made a lovely post about the Genius Loci of her area. The profile she created inspired me to look more into the spirits of my area. The wetland that I used to call home was mostly torn down for new housing and the part that I did visit that was retained is walled in by fences–I am still trying to figure out how and when to sneak back in. I am feeling the call that it misses me. I have created a profile of the Genius Loci of my area based on Vancouver Lake and Burnt Bridge Creek, which my wetland must have been fed by.
Genius Loci Profile of Burnt Bridge Creek
Vancouver, Washington, Burnt Bridge Creek runs down the middle of the city in a greenway belt.
Burnt Bridge Creek
The area was once called Ala Si Kas meaning land of mud turtles. Lewis and Clark had a stop off at Fort Vancouver—an important part of their trip, you can visit an interpretive center there by Vancouver Lake. They met with the Native American Tribes of the Chinook and Klikitat here.
Burnt Bridge Creek
Birds: crows, ducks, swans, sandhill cranes, Canada geese, robin, chickadee, towhee, stellar jay, bald eagle, hawk,
Mice, moles, voles, shrews, nutria, beavers, elk, marmot, snowshoe hare, pika, squirrel, cougars,coyotes, some bears.
Reptiles & Aquatic Life:
Salmon, Sturgeon, Trout, garter snakes
ants, praying mantis, crickets, spiders, mosquitos, bees, wasps, mosquito hawks, moths, butterflies.
Trees & Shrubs:
hemlock, hardhack, red ceder, fir maple, red alder, dogwood, hawthorn, ash, ponderosa pine, douglas fir, cottonwood, oak, willow,
Camas root huckleberry, elderberry, snow berry, Oregon grape, hazel, crab apple, Indian plum, cherry, currant, rose, thimble berry, salmon berry, blackberry, bracken fern, horsetail
Magical and Medicinal Plants:
Licorice Fern (chew leaves or tea, cough medicine),sword fern (chew leaves, treat sores and sore throats, chew for induce childbirth), lady fern (tea, ease pain), maiden hair fern (chew for internal bleeding, lather ashes with water to wash hair), deer fern (child eat root when lost, put leaves on paralysis), Yew for strength, hemlock (hallowed out filled with charms to cause storms), Douglas fir (burn cones for sunshine, burn cones for good wind on sea), cedar (mouth and throat sores) (rub body before spirit quest, put under bed for safety at sea)
Non Native Species:
Ivy, Himalayan Blackberry, gorse, Scotch broom,
On a clear day one can see several mountains, primarily Mt St Helens and Mt Hood. There are many creeks, wetlands, and rivers around. Burnt Bridge Creek Park is a narrow greenway that bisects Vancouver and one can hike the whole length of the city along it, from Wy-east to Vancouver Lake.
Southwest Washington has seasonal patterns that adjust about every seven years. There will be approximately seven dry years (well dry for here, that’s still a lot of rain), and seven wet years. Recently we have had a profusion of storms, thunderstorms in the summer, snow storms in the winter—we always have rainy flood storms near every year at least once. It’s a moderate climate average temperatures are just below freezing to usually max low 90’s in the summer.
About the Local Klikitat Indians
Klikitat (Chinookan: ‘beyond,’ with reference to the Cascade Mountains. ). A Shahaptian tribe whose former seat was at the headwaters of the Cowlitz, Lewis, White Salmon, and Klickitat rivers, north of Columbia river, in Klickitat and Skamania Counties, Wash. Their eastern neighbors were the Yakima, who speak a closely related language, and on the west they were met by various Salishan and Chinookan tribes. In 1805 Lewis and Clark reported them as wintering on Yakima and Klickitat rivers, and estimated their number at about 700. Between 1820 and 1830 the tribes of Willamette valley were visited by an epidemic of fever and greatly reduced in numbers. Taking advantage of their weakness, the Klikitat crossed the Columbia and forced their way as far south as the valley of the Umpqua.
Their occupancy of this territory was temporary, however, and they were speedily compelled to retire to their old seat north of. the Columbia. The Klikitat were always active and enterprising traders, and from their favorable position became widely known as intermediaries between the coast tribes and those living east of the Cascade range. They joined in the Yakima treaty at Camp Stevens, Wash., June 9, 1855, by which they ceded their lands to the United States. They are now almost wholly on Yakima Reservation, Wash., where they have become so merged with related tribes that an accurate estimate of their number is impossible. Of the groups still recognized on that reservation the Topinish are probably their nearest relatives (Mooney in 14th Rep. B. A. E., 738, 1896) and may be regarded as a branch of the Klikitat, and the Taitinapam, speaking the same tongue, as another minor branch. One of the settlements of the Klikitat was Wiltkun. (Wikipedia)
Local Native Cosmology
Mount St. Helens – Mount Adams – Mount Hood
Northwest Indians told early explorers about the firey Mount St. Helens. In fact, an Indian name for the mountain, Louwala-Clough, means “smoking mountain”. According to one legend, the mountain was once a beautiful maiden, “Loowit”. When two sons of the Great Spirit “Sahale” fell in love with her, she could not choose between them. The two braves, Wyeast and Klickitat fought over her, burning villages and forests in the process. Sahale was furious. He smote the three lovers and erected a mighty mountain peak where each fell. Because Loowit was beautiful, her mountain (Mount St. Helens) was a beautiful, symmetrical cone of dazzling white. Wyeast (Mount Hood) lifts his head in pride, but Klickitat (Mount Adams) wept to see the beautiful maiden wrapped in snow, so he bends his head as he gazes on St. Helens.
(Excerpt from: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Gifford Pinchot National Forest “Mount St. Helens” Broshure, 1980: Government Printing Office GPO 1980 699-331)
Native American legends abound with descriptions of the brothers Wy’east (Hood) and Pahto (Adams) battling for the fair La-wa-la-clough (St. Helens). Behaviors attributed to Wy’east include hurtling of hot rocks from gaping holes, sending forth streams of liquid fire, loss of formerly high summits, and choking of valleys with rocks. These are fair descriptions of Mount Hood’s reconstructed activity over the past two millennia.
(Excerpt from: Scott, et.al., 1997, Geologic History of Mount Hood Volcano, Oregon — A Field-Trip Guidebook: USGS Open-File Report 97-263)
The Klickitat Indians, living along The Dalles of the Columbia have a fine legend of the land of spirits. There lived a young chief and a girl who were devoted to each other and seemed to be the happiest people in the tribe, but suddenly he sickened and died. The girl mourned for him almost to the point of death, and he, having reached the land of the spirits, could find no happiness there for thinking of her. And so it came to pass that a vision began to appear to the girl at night, telling her that she must herself go into the land of the spirits in order to console her lover. Now there is, near that place, one of the most weird and funereal of all the various” Memaloose ” islands, or death islands, of the Columbia. The writer himself has been upon this island and its spectral and volcanic desolation makes it a fitting location for ghostly tales. It lies just below the ” great chute,” and even now has many skeletons upon it. In accordance with the directions of the vision, the girl’s father made a canoe, placed her in it, and passed out into Great River by night, to the Memaloose Island. As the father and his child rowed across the dark and forbidding waters, they began to hear the sounds of singing and dancing and great joy. Upon the shore the island they were met by four spirit people, who the girl, but bade the father return, as it was not for him to see into the spirit country. Accordingly the girl was conducted to the great dance-house of the spirits, and there she met her lover, far stronger and more beautiful than when upon earth. That night they spent in unspeakable bliss, but when the light began to break in the east and the song of the robins was heard from the willows on the shore, the singers and the dancers fell asleep.
The girl, too, had gone to sleep, but not soundly like the spirits. When the sun had reached the meridian, she woke, and now, to her horror, she saw that instead of being in the midst of beautiful spirits, she was surrounded by hideous skeletons and loathsome, decaying bodies. Around her waist were the bony arms and skeleton fingers of her lover, and his grinning teeth and gaping eye-sockets seemed to be turned in mockery upon her. Screaming with horror, she leaped up and ran to the edge of the island, were, after hunting a long time, she found a boat, in which she paddled across to the Indian village. Having presented herself to her astonished parents, they became fearful that some great calamity would visit the tribe on account of her return, and accordingly her father took her the next night back to the Memaloose Island as before. There she met again with the happy spirits of the blessed, and there again her lover and she spent another night in ecstatic bliss. In th course of time a child was born to the girl, beautiful beyond description, being half spirit and half human. The spirit bridegroom, being anxious that his mother should see the child, sent a spirit messenger to the village, desiring his mother to come by night to the Memaloose Island to visit them. She was told, however, that she must not look at the child until tend days had passed. But after the old woman had reached the island, her desire to see the wonderful child was so intense that she took advantage of a moment’s inattention on the part o fthe guard, and, lifting the cloth from the baby board, she stole a look at the sleeping infant. And then, dreadful to relate, the baby died in consequence of this premature human look. Grieved and displeased by this foolish act, the spirit people decreed that the dead should never again return nor hold any communication with the living. (Myths and Legends of the Pacific Northwest By Katharine Berry Judson)
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